Interactive Counsel

Arent Fox's interactive media law blog - latest news and trends in advertising, data security & privacy, and IP.

Interactive Counsel

Pop-Ups Get Political: Publishers May Need to Think Twice Before Detecting Ad Blockers


Pop-Ups Get Political: Publishers May Need to Think Twice Before Detecting Ad Blockers

As publishers turn from print to digital and rely on online ad sales, some websites now prevent readers from viewing content if they have an ad blocker enabled. Alexander Hanff, a privacy activist and CEO of Think Privacy, has launched a campaign to “name and shame” publishers using these methods. The campaign announcement comes days after the European Commission stated in a letter addressed to the activist that ad blockers can be illegal and in breach of EU privacy rules. 

The mechanism to detect ad blockers appears to require access to personal data. The campaign encourages internet users to report websites circumventing ad blockers to prevent publishers from infringing on personal privacy. Hanff says he will bring legal challenges against sites using anti-ad blockers without prompting for user permission.

Anti-ad blocker use may be the next arena of the data privacy debate, especially if the European Commission solidifies its position on the issue. According to the letter, the EU “cookie directive,” which requires websites to ask users for permission before accessing or storing their information, would apply to this type of technology as well.

Arent Fox will continue to monitor data collection issues and regulations in the US and the EU. For further information, please contact Sarah L. Bruno or Eva J. Pulliam.


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Arent Fox LLP, founded in 1942, is internationally recognized in core practice areas where business and government intersect. With more than 350 lawyers, the firm provides strategic legal counsel and multidisciplinary solutions to clients that range from Fortune 500 corporations to trade associations. The firm has offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.